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Behind the Scenes with Africa Oye

12 June 2019 by Sarah

Africa Oye 2014 – copyright Mark McNulty

We are always looking for new projects for our Student Ambassadors to work on. And this is what our Ambassador, and this week’s guest blogger, Laila Waraich has been working on most recently:

As part of my participation in the Ambassadors programme at the International Slavery Museum, I recently had the opportunity to meet with Dave McTague, part of the team at the Africa Oyé festival.

Although originally I had wanted to meet Dave to find out about the impact of Africa Oyé for a feature in an educational card game we are producing, ‘Civil Rights and Freedom Fights,’ I ended up discovering much more than I expected about the intricacies of producing an event like this, and it’s great cultural importance in Liverpool. Read more…

Why we need Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill

5 June 2019 by Sarah

Stamped bills

This week’s guest blog has been written by artist Dano Wall, who designed a stamp which puts Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill. Dano kindly allows us to use the stamp in some of our public education sessions at the Museum. Find out how and why he came up with this fantastic idea, as he writes:

On April 20, 2016, then-U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced plans to add Harriet Tubman to the front of the revised twenty-dollar bill, moving President Andrew Jackson to the rear. Lew instructed the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to expedite the redesign process, and the new bill was expected to enter circulation sometime after 2020. Read more…

Meet the author: Sara Collins

8 March 2019 by Sarah

Sara Collins. Credit: Justine Stoddart

Who is Sara Collins?

I studied law at the London School of Economics and worked as a lawyer for 17 years before pursuing my lifelong ambition of writing a novel. I obtained a master’s degree in Creative Writing from Cambridge University, where I started writing my novel in late 2015.

Why are you going to know all about Sara next month?

The Confessions of Frannie Langton will be published by Penguin (Viking) in the UK on 4 April 2019. Read more…

New Women Celebrated on our Black Achievers Wall

8 March 2019 by Sarah

Black Achievers Wall at International Slavery Museum Image credit: Redman Design/ International Slavery Museum

We are proud to have added two exceptional BAME women to our Black Achiever’s Wall this International Women’s Day (8 March 2019). Sandi Hughes is a feminist film-maker, DJ, poet and activist. And Lady Phyll is a celebrated speaker, writer and LGBTQI campaigner. Read more…

Vote for us!

13 December 2018 by Sarah

Our ‘Am Not I a Man and a Brother’ painting has been shortlisted for Art Fund Wok of the Year 2018. Shown here as it was acquired, and before conservation work. Image courtesy of National Museums Liverpool.

Fantastic news! Our new painting ‘Am Not I a Man and a Brother’ at the International Slavery Museum is on the shortlist of 10 works to be Art Fund Work of the Year 2018.

The annual poll aims to find the public’s favourite Art Funded work of the year, and to celebrate a year of helping museums and galleries acquire great art. You can help and support us by voting!

‘Am Not I a Man and a Brother’ is a significant acquisition for the Museum- and the UK.

It is the first painting in our collection to show the powerful and resonant iconography of abolition. The artwork dates from around 1800 and the artist is unknown. The foot of the canvas reads, ‘Am Not I a Man and a Brother’, a variation on the more common version, ‘Am I Not a Man and a Brother’. Read more…

UK’s 2nd Female BAME Stunt Actor : Shaina West aka The Samurider

12 December 2018 by Sarah

Images: Steve Brown Creative

Shaina West is a real life superhero, with a backstory to rival an Avenger and an alter ego fighting to change the stigma around Black women on screen. In this guest blog, Shaina explains how she overcame the adversity of a road accident to reinvent herself as a pioneering stunt actor and the anime-inspired Instagram star: The Samurider:

“The choice to become a stunt actor was not a particularly hard one, I feel like through minimal shaping of my own, my life led me towards it – it’s been an incredible ride! It all started when I was 20 and the unthinkable happened. I was in a terrible motorbike accident. It left me stranded in hospital for weeks with a fractured neck and broken thumb. My boyfriend of the time broke up with me and I lost my job. A series of unfortunate events indeed!  Read more…

Celebrating a fashion icon: Lois K Alexander Lane

12 October 2018 by Sarah

Lois K Alexander Lane. Credit: Courtesy of Susan McNeill and the Estate of Robert H. McNeill

We are honoured to have a guest blog from Joyce Bailey, daughter of the late Lois K Alexander Lane who is celebrated on our Black Achievers Wall at the Museum.

As a young girl, Lois K Alexander would look in boutique store windows and sketch the clothes she liked. She was clearly gifted, but not allowed to go in the stores to buy anything because of her race.  She later set out to dispel the myth ‘that Blacks were new found talent in the fashion industry’ and studied for a Master’s Degree from New York University. From there, her career in fashion was unstoppable. Read more…

We’re part of Scalarama Film Festival!

31 August 2018 by Sarah

September is Scalarama film festival month and National Museums Liverpool is happy to be taking part with a programme of free film screenings across our venues on the waterfront! Here, one of the International Slavery Museum’s Young Ambassadors, Laila Waraich, talks about her experience of working with Scalarama film festival this summer and being a young film programmer:

As one of the International Slavery Museum’s Young Ambassadors, I helped to organise a public screening at the Museum of Jordan Peele’s acclaimed film Get Out in June. The story follows a young Black man in America who goes on a trip to the country to meet his white girlfriend’s parents for the first time. The visit takes a sinister turn when he learns the family has a history of luring Black people to their home for a horrifying purpose. The aim of our screening was to show a film featuring positive or non-stereotypical representation of people of colour and to challenge the frequently negative depictions we all see daily from Hollywood and the wider media. But we also wanted to organise a fun opportunity to see a scary, funny, contemporary film.

The first stage in our planning was a workshop led by Monika Rodriguez and a team from Scalarama Liverpool. During the session, we discussed what our ideal cinema would be like. Although most of our ideas weren’t quite achievable; ranging from a screening on a white sandy beach to watching the film in our pyjamas in bed, it helped me to understand how the environment you watch the film in matters to how much you enjoy it. We all realised there were lots of things we didn’t like about conventional cinemas, from sticky floors to ear-ringingly loud audio, and we decided to cut them from our event. The thing I liked best about designing our own screening was the freedom to create a cinema experience we thought our target audience would enjoy most, and would have the largest chance of passing across our message. However it is also a big responsibility to host a public event that is both enjoyable and impactful. Monika explained to us the importance of an introduction to an audience and how to lead the Q&A session we had planned. It was important for us to have done our research on the film in order to steer the discussion and get our audience talking. Monika reminded us that our cinema-goers would be just as nervous to speak to the room as we were!

Another important decision we made with our audience in mind was the choice of film. We researched lots of options that we felt were both entertaining films but also featured BAME characters in leading roles. It was important that the films contained positive representation and didn’t fall into the common and dangerous trap of lazily stereotyped people of colour that we came across a lot, even in recent Hollywood pictures. Among the options discussed were Belle; Moonlight, 2017’s Best Picture winner; and Loving, about an interracial couple’s famous battle against the law. When looking for films, we were conscious of the need for it to be an entertaining, engaging film that would appeal to the general public, as well as ‘important.’ I found this aspect of film programming very interesting; the programmer has to balance what is likely to be popular with the audience as well as personal preference. This means it is not always the best idea to pick your favourite film or an obscure, vintage, foreign language documentary when planning a screening. Eventually after several rounds of tense group votes, it was either Black Panther, the popular Marvel superhero blockbuster with a mainly black cast, or Get Out. Choosing the winning film was even closer and more difficult, but eventually we decided Get Out featured both clever social comment and exciting action, making it perfect for us.

In the run up to the event we began a Marketing campaign, another aspect of film programming that Monika stressed the importance of for a successful event. Other members of the team did extra research, wrote a promotional blog post for the International Slavery Museum’s website, while I took part in writing web copy to further promote the film. I really enjoyed this because I gained experience of how to market public events from the inside, under the guidance of Education team at the International Slavery Museum. As a group, we also developed ideas for a poster for our event, which we passed on to Toucan Tango, a Liverpool print company, who turned the design ideas into a beautiful poster. It was fun to see our ideas brought to life and made into artwork that was specific to our project, with the detail featuring symbolism of enslavement taken from objects in the Museum’s collection.

On the 16 June, we hosted the screening at the Dr Martin Luther King Jr building at the Royal Albert Dock, Liverpool. After I delivered a short introduction welcoming visitors and providing some background information about the film, the lights went down. The Scalarama workshop was very useful when I was choosing what to say in my introduction, as it helped me to understand how different information the audience does or does not have before watching a film changes their experience of it.

After the film, the whole Young Ambassadors group, as well as Dr Richard Benjamin, the Head of the Museum, sat on a panel for a Q&A style discussion with the audience. At first the discussion centred around our opinions of the characters and talking points about the film, such as an alternative ending, before we moved on to issues of race relations in the UK compared to America, where the film is set. The fact that watching the film created the kind of conversation about race that it aims to do, at our screening, was really positive and exciting. It also helped to convince me that our Marketing of the event was successful, as we ended up with a room of like-minded people having an interesting conversation. As well as the film, there was also a handling table of objects from the Museum’s collection relating to the legacies of enslavement covered in the film and historical representation of people of colour, with Ambassadors on hand to explain the significance of items to the visitors. Finally, we handed out screen-printed copies of the limited edition poster to all the guests as a reminder of the occasion.

Overall, I hope everyone enjoyed the film at our screening as much as we did, even after having seen it before. Hosting a screening is a rewarding experience because you get the opportunity to share something you care about with members of the public. It also taught me how valuable it is to discuss a film with others, as everyone has different opinions and sees the same story from different angles, creating interesting questions that stayed with me well after the screening finished. Becoming a cinema is fun, exciting and not as hard as you would think. Most importantly, people will definitely turn up! If you do have an idea, you can take part in Scarlarama’s September festival.

National Museums Liverpool is taking part in Scalarama film festival this September with a programme of films across our waterfront venues, beginning with a screening of Hidden Figures at the International Slavery Museum, and its Young Ambassadors, on Saturday 1 September.

Do you know why this porthole is important?

22 August 2018 by Sarah

We walk over and through some sites of historical significance on the Walk of Remembrance, including this porthole over the Old Dock.

Are you joining us on the Walk of Remembrance this year? Every year thousands of people come together with us to make a special journey through Liverpool city centre.

People from all walks of life join the procession of reflection and take part in a public Libation service at the Royal Albert Dock, Liverpool to mark International Slavery Remembrance Day on 23 August – the date of the first successful revolution of enslaved Africans on the island of Saint Domingue (Modern Haiti) in 1791. This uprising led to the founding of an independent free country and inspired the fight for abolition across the globe.

We walk over and through some sites of historical significance on our Walk. Here, our Visitor Host, Daniel Wright, talks about the porthole in Liverpool One:

“As I attend the walk of remembrance on 23 August (I hope to see you there! ) I will be very aware that the majority of people making the walk through the city centre may not know the significance of what is below their feet when they walk past the little porthole next to John Lewis.  Read more…

A green resistance: plants and enslavement

10 August 2018 by Sarah

pale yellow flower

The design for this year’s Slavery Remembrance Day posters

Have you seen the new design for our Slavery Remembrance Day posters and leaflets for 2018?

They are all around the city centre and waterfront promoting Slavery Remembrance Day and the Unity Carnival.

A big, pale yellow flower sits in the middle of a black background.

Have you wondered why we have used this image? There are two reasons:

First, and for the first year ever, we have added a theme to the programme of celebration, commemoration and remembrance we hold annually for Slavery Remembrance Day. And that theme is ‘growth’. Many of our events will explore that idea this year.

This year’s design is related to growth, because the pale yellow flower on our new posters is actually the okra flower. We all know, and many of us will eat, the green vegetable – but maybe don’t recognise the flower.  Read more…



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Welcome to the National Museums Liverpool blog! Written by our staff and volunteers, we’ll give you a peek behind the scenes of our museums and galleries.

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We try to ensure that the information provided on our blog is accurate and that appropriate permissions to use images have been sought. The opinions in each blog are very much those of the individuals writing.